A job interview can bring about a great deal of anxiety, especially if you aren’t sure if a math degree will impress your interviewer or whether you have the right education for the job. In addition to practicing the answers to common interview questions and coming up with your own questions about the company or the role, there are things you can do to help your job interviews go more smoothly. From figuring out which jobs to apply for to having reasonable salary expectations, proper preparation can make the whole process of getting and acing an interview easier.
Look Beyond the Mathematician Job Title
Before the interview process even starts, you need to keep an open mind about what kind of job you can get with your math degree. Not every math-related job has “math” in the job title. In fact, most math majors use their degrees in other analytical roles.
There are only 3,100 Americans in the occupation mathematician according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). About 35 percent of those mathematicians work for the federal government, using their math skills to analyze matters of public policy that include the environment, the economy and public health issues. Other mathematicians devise experiments used in scientific research and development of products or engage in academic research at a college or university. Mathematicians who study applied, rather than theoretical, math may end up working in the finance and insurance industry or in consulting services.
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Other job titles for math majors include actuary, operations research analyst and math teacher. Both actuaries and operations research analysts fulfill analytical roles. Actuaries analyze risk and its financial consequences. Operations research analysts evaluate the quantitative data behind the entire operations of a company or organization, seeking out ways to improve business for the company. Math teachers educate students at the elementary school, middle school or high school level, teaching anything from basic arithmetic to Advanced Placement calculus courses. Math educators need to study teaching as well as mathematics, but different states have different requirements for attaining a teaching license or certification, especially for candidates who take an alternate route to achieve certification.
Rather than coming up with general answers about your mathematics strengths and experiences to discuss in an interview, consider how your background applies to the role you are interviewing for and show why you are a great choice for this particular job.
Play Up Your Skills
One of the best aspects of earning a degree in math is the breadth and versatility of the subject. Unlike many other degrees – even math-related degrees, such as actuarial science and operations research – the curriculum of a math degree program does not revolve around getting one single type of job or passing a professional examination. Rather, it covers math subject matter – such as calculus, algebra and differential equations, the BLS reported – and a range of skills that you can use in many different careers.
Studying math can help you acquire skills such as quantitative reasoning and logical, analytical thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving. Employers in a wide array of industries respect the difficult nature of a college mathematics curriculum and value the skills graduates from such a program possess. The types of jobs you can do with mathematics degree are almost endless, including roles encrypting data sent over the Internet, streamlining technology used for entertainment purposes and compiling and analyzing the statistics of professional athletes.
Instead of worrying that your math background isn’t as relevant as another candidate’s narrower major, approach the interview with confidence. Tell your interviewer what skills you learned from studying math and how you have or would apply them in your work.
Know Your Worth
Math-related jobs often pay high salaries. The median wage for mathematicians is $103,010, according to the BLS. Actuaries also earn a six-figure median salary, $101,560, and operations research analysts make a median wage of $81,390.
Of course, new graduates of a math degree program can’t realistically expect to command these high salaries right off the bat. Entry-level wages for math majors often begin at around $50,800 for mathematicians, $49,300 for statisticians, $45,000 to $56,100 for actuaries, $48,500 for economists and $49,000 for computer information systems specialists.
Other factors besides how recently you finished school can play a role in your financial worth as an employee. Having a master’s degree in math, for example, can open up new career opportunities or increase your salary potential.